Heliotrope began with a conversation about how much the city needs an injection of light once nights start drawing in. What happens to us when the seasons change, why do so many of us feel lethargic and withdrawn? Could we create a large sunny spot in the middle of cloudy, grey Glasgow to help us deal with our cravings for light?
Producers Trigger and DO Architecture were early collaborators, with psychiatrist John Eagles providing specialist scientific support. We applied successfully to the Wellcome Trust and Creative Scotland for funding to develop the project, and brought in additional team members. Hanna Tuulikki came on board as a sound artist, Stefanie Posavec as a graphic designer, Justin Quillinan as a programmer and Tom Brown as a second psychiatrist.
We issued an open call for a writer, and found Molly Naylor. Briefed to create a piece of fiction about seasonality, she worked closely with John Eagles to co-author complementary pieces of poetry and prose that explore our relationship with light. You can read these by clicking on the Writing planet.
Very quickly we established circadian rhythms, the rotation of the earth and the number twelve as themes. Everything references these: the logo and design work, the timing of the piece (12 minutes long), the shape of the installation, the writing. We worked closely together as a team, learning about each others' processes and exploring collaborative ways of working that allowed us all to impact on and influence each other.
We hope we've created something beautiful that reflects our own learning curves, what we now know about the seasons and how we operate within them. We hope you enjoy it.
You can find out more about our process here.
Architect and lighting designer: DO Architecture
DO are a multi-disciplinary studio based in Glasgow, working with artists, light and the built environment.
Graphic designer: Stefanie Posavec
Stefanie's passion is the visualization of letters, sentences and books. She is drawn to things that appeal to the really vigorous detailed aspect in her.
Programmer: Justin Quillinan
Justin is currently working on a PhD in Language Evolution at the University of Edinburgh as part of the Language Evolution and Computation research group.
Psychiatrists: John Eagles and Tom Brown
John M Eagles MBChB MPhil FRCPsych is a former Honorary Professor of Mental Health, Aberdeen University (retired) and former Consultant Psychiatrist, Royal Cornhill Hospital, Abderdeen (retired). In 2007, he contributed to the UK's first encyclopaedia on mental health for the general public, writing a chapter on seasonal affective disorder, a winter depression condition believed to affect three per cent of adults in the UK.
Tom Brown BSc. MB ChB. MPhil. FRCPE. FRCPsych is a former Consultant Liaison Psychiatrist who retired recently from his post at the Western Infirmary, Glasgow. He continues to work as Associate Registrar for the Royal College of Psychiatrists and is responsible for a programme to recruit medical students to psychiatry. Along with Professor John Eagles he jointly edited a book on teaching psychiatry to undergraduates.
Trigger is a producer-led arts organisation. We work collaboratively with makers, arts organisations and other people-friendly companies to create new forms of engagement that inspire people to join in.
Sound artist: Hanna Tuulikki
Hanna is a musician, visual artist and illustrator. Her art practice is largely place-specific, using various forms of performance and installation to respond to both rural and urban settings.
Sound recordist: Daniel Padden
Daniel is a composer and musician based in Scotland. He has created music for film, theatre and television.
Sound technicians: Robert Macleod and Pete Dowling
Robert is a musician, sound designer and technician. He has experience working in domestic, commercial and public settings. Most recently he worked with DO Architecture to design and install an ambient light and sound installation in Brighton.
Stage fabricator: Re-form the Norm
Joachim King is a furniture maker based in Glasgow. He is originally from a family of boat builders in the Finnish archipelago and has a degree in Mechanical Engineering. The combined influences of engineering and boatbuilding craftsmanship are perfect ingredients for innovative and practical design that can be seen throughout his work.
Writer: Molly Naylor
Molly is a poet, playwright and theatre-maker. Molly has written for The Independent and her poems have been featured on BBC Radio and in publications including Rialto, The North, the Londonist and Pen Pusher.
The Heliotrope lightscape was devised and choreographed by Adrian Stewart and Judith Wylie Macleod of DO Architecture. It is twelve minutes long, and reflects a journey from the darkness of winter into the bright warmth of summer. Shifting the colour temperature of white light simulates the nuance between varying seasons.
Intelligent control of the luminaires permits variation of intensity and colour temperature from warm (2700K) to cool (6500K). They are normally used for architectural purposes: to light cityscapes, landscapes, buildings or bridges.
We have created this website as a parallel way of experiencing Heliotrope. It explores the same themes as the physical installation in a way that we hope is sensitive to and appropriate for online viewing.
Created by Justin Quillinan and Stefanie Posavec, the website communicates seasonal shifts in mood. Appearance changes throughout the day, reflecting the way our emotional state can change in response to the seasons. If you're looking at this during daytime hours, you'll encounter a representation of summer moods: warmth, happiness, bright colours and fast movements. If it's the night wherever you are, you'll encounter a version of winter moods: darker, more subdued, cooler colours, slower movement.
All through the day the mood of the website changes: from a summer day to a winter night and evolving through the spring and autumn twilight hours between.
Check out the source code.
8 November 2012: Read about Heliotrope on the STV website - you may want to mute your computer before you click, there's an auto-play advert on the site.
18 November 2012: Heliotrope mentioned in The Observer Magazine.
How does light affect us? How do we feel the seasons? What is our relationship with the sun? What happens to us during the winter months when we see less of it?
Heliotrope has three parts to it: a 12 minute audio and light installation, this website and a beautiful limited edition booklet. It has been created by a team of artists, designers and scientists, working together to explore the impact of light on human minds and bodies.
"As a human experience it stands out. Its artistic nature facilitates a very personal experience."
Audience member: Heliotrope tests, June 2012.
The installation happened at the Kibble Palace in Glasgow's Botanic Gardens from 24 to 27 November 2012.
The Heliotrope installation is not currently available to experience anywhere. We hope to re-stage it in 2013 / 2014, watch this space.
Hanna Tuulikki's soundtrack has been created from a series of singing bowl and gong samples. In early 2012, Hanna visited sound therapist Helen Johnson who has been exploring the use of singing bowls in a therapeutic setting since the 1980s. Working with musician Daniel Padden she recorded samples of a number of differently sized bowls, as well as various gongs. She then used these to develop a twelve minute composition: an audio narrative that takes us on a journey from the darkness of winter towards the brightness of summer.
The soundscape is a surround sound piece, and appears to emerge from all directions when experienced as part of Heliotrope. It will be available to listen to online in mid-November.
You can listen to a web version of the full soundtrack.
WINTER BLUES AND BLACK DOGS
The terms Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and recurrent winter depression are used when people regularly experience severe lowering of mood and energy each winter.
Like "ordinary" (non-seasonal) depression, sufferers are likely to have low mood, loss of pleasure and interest, low energy, low sex drive, irritability and social withdrawal. Unlike non-seasonal depression, with winter depression people usually eat more, gain weight and sleep more. They also have difficulty waking in the morning. About a third of people who get recurrent winter depression become overactive and over-cheerful in the spring and summer.
LIGHT AND HEALTH
The idea that light and the seasons may be important to our health is not new. In 400 B.C. the Greek Physician Hippocrates wrote that "it is chiefly the changes of seasons which produce diseases". In 200 A.D. another Physician named Aretaeus suggested that "lethargics are to be laid in the light and exposed to the rays of the sun (for the disease is gloom)".
All mammals synthesize Vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. This is essential to maintaining healthy bones. During the last 30 years, it has been appreciated that reduced light exposure can increase the risk of winter depression. At the beginning of the 20th century the vast majority of western adults worked outdoors. Now most of us work indoors. Perhaps our health has not benefitted from these changes.
BRIGHTENING UP/ SEEING THE LIGHT
Particularly for milder winter depression, anything that cuts into the winter cycles of gloom is likely to help. This might include getting more exercise, going outside in the daylight or losing weight.
Light therapy, usually from a light box or a dawn simulating alarm clock, is generally helpful for more severe symptoms. A light box is often used for about 30 minutes at breakfast time.
Antidepressants, again for the more severely affected, are often helpful.
Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) has also been shown to be therapeutic.
SEASONAL HIGHS AND LOWS
One study in North America found that 90% of people experienced changes in their well-being across the seasons of the year. It is normal to be more energetic and positive in the spring and summer - we feel "bright". It is normal to slow down, to eat more and to sleep more during the winter months - we feel "gloomier". For most of us, these changes are mild and tolerable. Only when these changes are extreme can they be considered as a "disorder" or an "illness".
EVOLVING THROUGH THE SEASONS
Men and women have been evolving on our planet for about two million years. Adapting successfully to seasonal changes improved humans' chances of surviving and flourishing. Seasonal changes in mood and activity levels may once have been an evolutionary advantage, as they are for animals who hibernate. Energetic, out-going women and men in spring and summer would have been more likely to find a mate and reproduce. The baby of a mother who became pregnant in the summer would be born in spring when the climate and availability of food would have improved the chances of survival. Mothers who were pregnant during the autumn and winter months would have had healthier pregnancies if they ate more, slept more and were quietly "depressed" and inactive.
WINTER CYCLES OF GLOOM
Although lack of light is the major cause, other factors contribute to the continuation and worsening of winter depression. These factors can feed into each other and cause vicious circles of increasing symptoms, as shown below:
Inside a cave
a dog is a useful commodity.
Thick black fur is convenient.
A hand plunged into a shaggy coat
makes a fist and squeezes.
Here, you are a friend with a looming frame
a bounding energy in a dark place
a buddy even when you are sleeping.
The opposite of you is blacker than you.
We need each other here,
food is scarce and your body is warm
we sigh and wait for dawn
a silk jet chorus of comfort.
Breakfast is gathered under stars.
Stars have long since sputtered out.
All this has already happened.
Before we invented buildings.
The dog yawns on the end of the bed.
Stinking up the place.
I try and tell you how when I was young
I never took to swimming.
The dog interrupts me by
barking along to The Archers theme-tune
and standing in the toast.
The dog is yours
and what is yours is sort of mine
and if it left, you would be better.
There'd be something close to sunshine.
Autumn promises firework displays.
For you it whispers darker days
in the mornings all that seeps inside is grey
your flat looks out on nothing much.
It faces the wrong way.
I leave you in your place and I go home.
Catch a glimpse of canine silhouette,
black, at the window as I go.
Gooseberry dog, your paws are dirty
and I wish you'd go for sticks.
I'd lob one over rooftops
so he and me could be alone.
This could be Glasgow, or Tokyo
either way I want to crawl inside its neon
and hibernate in glow.
The black dog joins me for coffee
at a diner on a street of diners.
We watch the traffic splashing puddles
onto bicycle-clipped nylon trousers.
I don't know what time it is,
the clocks went back, or forward,
for farmers, for the mornings.
I order a sandwich with extra bread.
The dog has a skinny latte.
I want to be the sort of person who makes demands,
who asks, what are you doing here?
And, how long will this last?
But the dog's proximity is soporific.
Makes me the kind of person who leaves too big a tip
for the service I haven't received.
We stare out at diminishing tail lights
the dog's black, unnerving eyes which seem to say
I'm here to stay.
She ignores the text message invitation.
Of course she doesn't fancy a game of ultimate frisbee.
It's January and she's got stuff to do.
This indoor tent won't pitch itself.
She pulls duvets, blankets, cushions under canvas
stuffs to-do lists to the bottom of her sleeping bag.
The prospect of the doorbell snags her heart
let alone the idea of the way winter might feel.
She angles the TV so she can see it through the flaps
sleeps spooning the remote.
A crack in the curtains reveals a bright white morning.
The thought of pulling them back startles her
almost makes her get up.
But in the end she grasps at sunken comfort.
Crawls inside layers.
She is not alone.
The black dog is here.
A gloomy panting presence,
aiding in her forgetting the things that help
distracting her from life-lines with warm growls.
Your friend the artist owns a black dog
and talks about how she cannot paint without it.
You work in a Building Society
and sit next to a man who smells of Horlicks
and your black dog
is a mangy sheep.
A three-legged camel
a poorly gibbon
a braying goose
a dead cow.
What I'm saying is,
you could do without this now.
Feeding it is becoming a problem.
Hiding it from clients makes you tired.
Getting it through the barrier at Clapham Junction
when you go home for Christmas
is going to be a nightmare.
You try and persuade the dog
not to come to work tomorrow
as the two of you watch
black and white movies of an evening.
In old films, sorrow looks more romantic than this.
There are fewer animals for one
and smoking wasn't bad for you then.
One day you wake up and the dog is gone.
Nothing pulls your arm as you walk,
no sticky residue left from balling fist in fur
and in the pub, you begin to ask
if the dog can come in, before remembering
that the dog is no longer a thing.
Your hands are quicker.
Your t-shirts are cleaner
and the way you speak:
you mean what you say more.
You lose yourself in April.
Things look much more floral.
The dent at the end of your bed
begins flattening and your feet start forgetting.
You're less like a chrysalis
more like a moth.
Your voice has a flippancy that makes you feel
that you are fall-in-lovable.
Through the lighter months you don't forget entirely
but the heart-sink fades
and the shoulder-pull feeling doesn't stay.
By July you don't even remember the dog's name
and you stop wondering when it's coming back.
You smile at dog walkers in the park
and fellow black dog owners
you forgot to make friends with in the dark.
You vow to be nicer to them next winter
and you hope their dogs have left them too.
You feel closer to everyone as the chorus begins,
as you walk home the long way in the last of the night.
Some of us were in a darker place to begin with
but we are, all of us, searching for the light.